UPDATE: 4 Things You Need to Know About Banning the Box at NYU

Lexi Faunce and Anne Cruz

Washington Square News sat down with members of the Incarceration to Education Coalition to flesh out some discrepancies between the group and NYU administrators over whether disciplinary and criminal history questions should be included in applications to the university.

Students applying to NYU undergraduate programs using the Common App are asked to disclose
the following:

  1. Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action?
  2. Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime?

Here are some points you need to know about the movement to “abolish the box.”

The Letter

– The IEC claims NYU administrators have distorted and diluted their original letter intended to be sent to the Common Application. In particular, IEC stated NYU administrators did not include the notion of the university refusing to use the Common App in their next admissions cycle if the Common App did not agree to remove its disciplinary and criminal history checkboxes.

– After this discrepancy, the IEC stated it asked the administration not to send their altered version of the letter to the Common App. However, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, NYU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management MJ Knoll-Finn sent the letter to Common App’s Board Chair Gil J. Villanueva and CEO Paul Mott.

NYU Supports Education for Incarcerated Individuals

– NYU created its own Prison Education Program to give incarcerated individuals at Wallkill Correctional Facility the chance to take courses in intensive liberal arts study and introductory courses from the university’s professional schools. Once released, students enrolled in PEP will be allowed to continue their education at NYU or transfer into another institution. 

University Employee Applications Don’t Have the Box

– Those who wish to work for NYU are not required to “check the box” on job applications. The Fair Chance Act states New York City employees are only required to disclose such information after they have been offered a job.

Policies Addressing the Box are Inconsistent Across the University

– Only students applying to NYU undergraduate schools through the Common App are subject to answering questions about their disciplinary and criminal history.

– Some NYU graduate schools, such as the Silver School of Social Work, have abolished the box all together.

– The NYU Wagner School of Public Service has not issued a public statement regarding abolishing the box all together, but does not include questions concerning criminal history.

University Spokesman John Beckman said the IEC has raised valuable questions and concerns about the consequences of the box on undergraduate applications. However, Beckman said the university did not believe there was enough objective evidence to determine whether the checkbox has any effect on campus safety and that NYU did not have enough leverage to threaten a boycott of the Common App.

“The IEC’s position’s was that NYU should issue an all-or-nothing ultimatum to the Common App: drop the checkbox, or NYU will leave the Common App,” Beckman said in an email. “The Common App was created to improve access to college, so leaving the Common App means NYU would make it harder for students to apply, which may not be a  problem for students from well-resourced families but might well disadvantage poorer students or students who don’t have a parent who has gone to college, thereby hurting diversity, an outcome surely at odds with the IEC’s own goals.

UPDATE: this article has been updated to include a response from NYU administration.

A version of this story appeared in the Monday, Feb. 8 print issue. Email Lexi Faunce and Anne Cruz at [email protected].